Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Long Pen

This is just craziness: Alice Munro in a futuristic metallic blouse singing the praises of the LongPen, that Margaret Atwood-designed electronic doodad that allows writers to sign books over the internets. Clearly, she thinks the whole idea is a gas, if a tiny bit absurd. All the benefits of a book tour, but no carbon emissions! Oh, yeah, and the writer can stay home in her slippers.

For a long time I thought the LongPen was actually an ironic invention designed to undercut the whole idea of book-signings. Now I think sly old Atwood is for real. And you know, she's won me over. Reclusive writers can remain reclusive, publishers can put more money into other marketing, readers get their signed copies and a video-enabled face-to-face chatlet, and the environment wins, too. As Munro says, "I can't think of any drawbacks."

Will fans feel cheated? Would they rather press some flesh than see their favorite writer on teevee? Eh. With some notable exceptions, writers don't fare so well in person, anyway, and the LongPen seems like a rather satisfactory way for a writer to take back some personal space while still giving a little of themselves. Anyway, I'm happy with the fan-letter model of writer-reader interaction. I have a letter from Alice Munro hanging over my desk, signed with a short pen.

(Thanks to Doug Mitchell for the link!)


Pete said...

Yesterday GalleyCat reported on one more advantage of the LongPen - Conrad Black was able to use it to do a book signing in Toronto while he's in detention in the U.S. after being convicted on corporate embezzlement charges. I'm hoping that several members of the Bush Administration, after someday publishing their various memoirs, will find the LongPen similarly useful.

Matthew Tiffany said...

One word: photocopier.

zoe said...

I was at Atwood's interview with Munro via satellite at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August and really enjoyed the experience. Alice Munro was funny and warm and the long pen seemed to work really well. Due to limited time, Margaret Atwood drew raffle tickets for thirty people to get their books signed by Alice Munro which made for quite a bizarre spectacle. I mean, Margaret Atwood is my hero and has been since I was about eleven, so to see her for the first time as some sort of Ladies Auxilliary raffle ticketer was funny and also cool.

I would say though, that as environmentally friendly as the Long Pen is, I got a massive thrill from meeting Margaret Atwood (and I might add being hugged by her) and geekily getting my picture taken with her. For those writers who give good read I would be sad to not actually get to meet them. Even if it's just to smile at them like a tit because I can't think of anything to actually say (other than "I love you", which I'm almost ashamed to say I actually uttered to her).